Community on Fortification Research (COMFORT)

The several thousands of European fortifications are omnipresent in almost all European cultural and archaeological landscapes. But due to their size, complexity and heterogeneity they are difficult to examine as a whole and therefore are still not understood in depth. Despite the long research history, which goes back to the early days of archaeology itself, surprisingly little is known about general trends of their development and questions about definition, terminology, chronology, typology, functions, or their role and interconnection within the wider cultural landscape. The diversity of the phenomenon manifests itself in the many terms fortifications are labeled with (i.e. hillforts, strongholds, enclosures, etc.).

Hillfort in Grobina, Latvia
Hillfort in Grobina, Latvia (Foto: T. Ibsen, ZBSA).

Today’s archaeologists can use a whole range of new powerful investigation methods beside excavations: geophysics, aerial photography and LIDAR scanning, Pollen analysis, drilling, geochemical soil analysis, microstratigraphy, C14-dating and GIS based studies to display, combine and holistically analyze all the various data. As there is no common strategy for the investigation of fortifications their study needs a continuous exchange between researchers to develop individual approaches tackling the individual site with its biography and challenges.

As the interest in fortifications and their connections to phenomena like conflict, hierarchy, or trade, as well as their impact on the social and spatial organization grows, it becomes difficult to keep track of the almost uncountable number of related archaeological activities and affiliated publications.
Hence there is a big need of exchanging knowledge on a Pan-European level by forming a platform for the exchange of experiences and knowlegde.

Against this background the ZBSA in 2018 initiated – in succession of the former ZBSA project „Baltic Hillfort Network (BHN)“ - the „Community on Fortification Research (COMFORT)“ in the frame of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) with the aim to:

  • Offer a discussion platform and enlarge the network of fortification researchers
  • Identify current research issues
  • Implement joint investigation strategies
  • Contribute to the development of frameworks to interpret fortifications
  • Develop common documentation standards
  • Organise and coordinate sessions dedicated to the archaeology of fortifications and related structures at EAA Annual Meetings, particularly including sessions of general interest allowing for wide participation

The project is closely connected to the ZBSA project „Forschungskontinuität und Kontinuitätsforschung – Siedlungsarchäologische Grundlagenforschung zur Eisenzeit im Baltikum“.

Research clusters

Man and Society

Research Priorities

The former East Prussia within the Baltic Archaeology Network


Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Claus von Carnap-Bornheim

Dr. Timo Ibsen

In cooperation with

Dr. Sebastian Messal, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Berlin

Prof. Birgit Maixner, Department of Archaeology and Cultural History, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

External links

Projektseite bei der EAA